Courtesy of the artists
Clockwise from upper left: Confidence Man, Young Fathers, Hookworms
Courtesy of the artists
As we sift through the thousands of video entries we got for this year's Tiny Desk contest, we've laughed, loved and made a lot of phenomenal discoveries along the way. On this edition of All Songs Considered we share one of the most powerful and deeply moving ones we've seen. It comes from a band called Bernie And The Believers whose lyricist, Bernie Dalton, pursued his lifelong dream of making an album, even after ALS robbed him of his ability to move or speak. We share the song the group performed for its Tiny Desk contest entry, "Unusual Boy."
Also on the show: The "dorky" dance pop of Australia's Confidence Man; A soaring jam from the English rock band Hookworms; The wistful, dizzying pop of Forth Wanderers; A peppy ode to millennial debt from the L.A. group Illuminati Hotties; Intense and inspired polyrhythms from the Edinburgh-based band Young Fathers; And NPR Music's Tom Huizenga stops by to share a beautiful, lilting prelude from Sergei Rachmaninov.
Confidence Man's "Boyfriend (Repeat)" thumps along to a slick four-on-the-floor rhythm. But rather than groove mindlessly to the beat, the Australian group — with its twee stage names (Janet Planet, Reggie Goodchild, Sugar Bones and Clarence McGuffie, for the curious) and sardonic songwriting — have made it their express goal to instill "some dorkiness in dance music." Confident Music For Confident People comes out April 13 on Heavenly.
"Paying Off The Happiness"
L.A. musician Sarah Tudzin makes fizzy, self-deprecating power pop under the moniker Illuminati Hotties. "Paying Off The Happiness," like a few other unlikely rallying cries before it, plays off the very real, very troubling issue of financial insolvency among the millennial set with a joyful sigh and shrug. Kill Yr Frenemies comes out May 11 via Tiny Engines.
"In My View"
"In My View" might just be the closest thing the Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers have to a straightforward smash. The lead single off the Scots' third album Cocoa Sugar, "In My View" updates the band's punch of driving, bass-heavy polyrhythms, adding a dose of '80s stadium rock and a shout-along chorus to the mix. "In My View" becomes a slurry of intense, powerful despair. Cocoa Sugar is out now on Ninja Tune.
Forth Wanderers thrives in distance. Singer Ava Trilling writes the lyrics in New York, guitarist Ben Guterl builds the backbone of music in Ohio. "Taste," in particular, came from diametrically opposed places in their young love lives. Guterl worked through the song's production to impress his now-girlfriend. Trilling writes, however, that she "was in a difficult place with my relationship at the time." Still, the distance — emotional and physical — doesn't undercut the dizzying intimacy of the song. Forth Wanderers' self-titled album is out April 27 on Sub Pop.
Bernie And The Believers
"Unusual Boy (feat. Essence)"
Bernie Dalton's Tiny Desk Contest entry comes attached with an origin story that is heart-rending. Dalton hired voice coach and singer/songwriter Essence Goldman to formally refine his voice, only to lose it two months after to bulbar-onset ALS — an especially deleterious form of the disease that has now left him only able to communicate with his eyes and an Eye Gaze Device. As his ALS worsened, Goldman started making music to accompany Dalton's lyrics, putting out a full-length album in February sung entirely by Goldman. In his Tiny Desk Contest entry, Goldman and the band involved with the album's creation perform at his bedside. It is, at once, devastating and beautiful.
"Prelude No. 5 In G Major, Op. 32"
The Moscow pianist Nikolai Lugansky has carved something of a niche for himself as a Rachmaninov specialist, playing in festivals for the late great pianist and even in his estate. NPR Music's Tom Huizenga likens this gorgeous Rachmaninov prelude, rendered gracefully by Lugansky, to a butterfly fluttering around a sun-crested brook. Rachmaninov: 24 Preludes is out now on Harmonia Mundi.
Leeds five-piece Hookworms closes this week's episode with "Opener," an ambient slow-burn that burbles into a muscular, guitar-rock singalong. "The lyrics of the song are an exploration of the lack of emotional labor in masculine friendships and how we're taught as young men to equate failure as a failure of our masculinity," frontman MJ writes to NPR. Microshift is out now on Domino.